SANTA CRUZ — Rescuers have stopped searching the cold Pacific Ocean for a couple, two young children and a sinking sailboat as questions of a hoax arise amid no reports of the missing family or any registration of the vessel in question.
The Coast Guard on Tuesday called off the search for a boat that reportedly sank in rough seas far off the Central California coast, saying nothing more could be done and that the family's distress calls might have been a hoax.
"We've exhausted the possibilities," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz said. The Coast Guard is treating the incident as a rescue, with the possibility the calls came from a trickster.
Coast Guard Executive Officer Noah Hudson in Monterey said it was tough to call off a search, but that if it was a hoax, "it's unfortunate that we were forced to use so many resources for so much time."
Making a false federal distress call is a federal felony, and perpetrators face up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The 42-hour search involved hundreds of rescuers from the Coast Guard and the California Air National Guard. A Hercules C-130 four-engine turboprop aircraft buzzed above the seas, while helicopters, cutters and lifeboats plied the waters, as costs soared into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.